He was presented with his award for volunteering at a star-studded ceremony hosted by the Stroke Association in London yesterday.
In 2011, Mr Thornton’s wife Victoria had a devastating stroke at the age of 38. It was caused by an unknown congenital heart defect, during surgery after a miscarriage, and left her with dysarthria (difficulty speaking caused by problems controlling the muscles used in speech). Victoria is also wheelchair-bound, with virtually no sense of balance when standing.
Rik gave up his job as a plant operator to become a full-time carer for his wife.
After the couple attended the Stroke Association’s Long Term Support Group in Downham, it did not take him long to realise that he wanted to give something back to the charity.
Mr Thornton underwent training, and has now been volunteering for the Stroke Association for three years.
He has given many talks to schools, colleges and nursing students about his role as a carer and has raised thousands of pounds through the Stroke Association’s fundraising events.
He also campaigns for better services for stroke survivors and is the secretary of the Downham Long Term Support Group (LTSG), where he helps stroke survivors to regain their confidence and independence.
Mr Thornton said: “When I was told that I had won the award, it knocked me for six!
“I love volunteering. The enjoyment you feel through helping others is indescribable. I always remember the time when Victoria said that she didn’t feel extraordinary – just an ordinary person, coping the best she could in an extraordinary situation.
“That stayed with me when I found out I’d won the award. I too feel like an ordinary person, doing an extraordinary job, to make the best out of a terribly difficult situation.”
Kim Peach, a Stroke Association coordinator for West Norfolk who nominated Rik, said: “Rik is truly one of the unsung heroes of volunteering.”
Rik’s energy and enthusiasm for supporting the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke services in West Norfolk is boundless. Rik is an outstanding volunteer and we are blessed to have him working with us.”
The Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards, sponsored by TONI&GUY Charitable Foundation, recognise the courage shown by stroke survivors and carers, as well as the great work and commitment shown by health professionals, groups and supporter organisations.
On winning his award, Jon Barrick, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “The Life After Stroke Award for volunteering celebrates courage, initiative and generosity of spirit. Rik’s selfless dedication to helping others is truly humbling. He’s touched many people who are going through the hardest periods of their lives, after a stroke. That he’s given so much to others, whilst caring for his wife, shows outstanding compassion and commitment. Both Rik and Victoria should be extremely proud.”
More information on the Life After Stroke Awards and short films about the winners, including Rik’s story, can be found at www.stroke.org.uk/lasa.